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Lyrel Teagarden papers

Identifier: Ax 749

Scope and Contents note

The Lyrel Teagarden Papers bring together personal accounts and fictional stories related to Teagarden's missionary work. Most of the materials in this collection concern Teagarden's long career in China--where she lived in Nanjing, Shanghai, and Luchowfu. Her letters provide details into her teaching and missionary routines as well as the political events that impacted China in the 1920s through the 1940s. She described the stark contrast between the wealthy and poor in Luchowfu; the persistence of droughts and subsequent famines; and the perilousness caused by bandits and later by the war with Japan. The Teagarden Papers' correspondence files pertain only to her missionary work in China. They end in 1951 when she, along with most Christian missionaries, left China after the installation of the new Communist-led government. These letters are valuable for their account of missionary work and its intersection with local and national politics in China. They also offer unique insights into the assumptions and impressions of an American missionary woman who spent considerable time in a location far removed from most missionaries in China. Some of Teagarden's earliest letters might prove to be of particular interest to researchers. The letters themselves average 7.5 feet in length and are written on hand-painted stationary.

Teagarden's remote location make this collection unique. Special Collections & University Archives houses a wide array of manuscript collections related to the lives of women missionaries to China. Teagarden spent most of her missionary career in Luchowfu, west of Nanjing, a place where there were few other foreigners. Consequently, she offers a different perspective on missionary work and a unique contribution to these holdings.

The Teagarden Papers also contain manuscripts, photographs, and journal and newspaper clippings, nearly all of which relate to Teagarden's service in China. The clippings offer brief glimpses beyond the viewpoint of Teagarden--of missionary work in Luchowfu and of major events that concerned these missionaries (such as the 1938 flight of Teagarden along with three other missionaries from western China to Shanghai after the Japanese attack). The collection's two literary manuscripts were both authored by Teagarden. "A Course For Children's Centers" is a religious curriculum booklet she and other missionaries developed following World War II. The manuscripts "The Little Black House" is a fictional account based on Teagarden's experiences in China. The story takes place during the Nationalist Revolution of 1927 and the Japanese invasion of 1937. The photographs associated with this collection consist mostly of photos taken at the Blind Girls' School (in 1938) and during Teagarden's 1927-28 visit to Japan.


  • 1921-1951


Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use note

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical/Historical note

Lyrel G. Teagarden was born in Danbury, Connecticut on April 23, 1894. She graduated from Danbury High School in 1912 and received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Bethany College in 1916. She obtained her Master of Arts degree in 1920 from the College of Missions; her master's thesis was entitled The Place of Women in Chinese Civilization. She was given an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Bethany College in 1951. Her furlough study time was spent at Union Theological Seminary and Cornell University, among others.

As a member of the Disciples of Christ Church, Teagarden served as a missionary in China, from 1920 to 1951; in Jamaica, from 1952 to 1956; and worked for two years in the Yakima Indian Mission in Washington State during World War II, when she could not return to China. Her area of service was religious education, leadership training, and evangelistic and educational work. She has had short stories, articles, and poems published in World Call, The Christian Evangelist, The Northeastern Christian, and The Messenger. She has also published six volumes in Chinese for teachers of religious education in China.


2.25 linear feet (6 containers)

Language of Materials



Lyrel Teagarden (born April 23, 1894) served as a missionary in China from 1920 to 1951, in Jamaica from 1952 to 1956, and worked for two years in the Yakima Indian Mission in Washington State (during the early 1940s). The collection includes correspondence, day journals, biographical material, literary manuscripts and newsletters that reflect her missionary career, primarily during the China period.

Arrangement note

Collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Correspondence; Subseries A: Outgoing correspondence; Subseries B: Incoming correspondence

Series II: Literary Manuscripts; Subseries A: "The Little Black House"; Subseries B: "A Course For Children’s Centers"

Series III: Biographical Material

Series IV: General Clipping and Newsletters

Series V: Miscellaneous

Series VI: Day Journals

Series VII: Photographs

Series VIII: Oversize

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

Gift of Lyrel Teagarden in the 1970s.

Existence and Location of Copies note

Available in microfilm as part of: Women's lives. Series 3, American women missionaries and pioneers collection (MICROFILM BV3703 .W66 2006, reel 48-51); Primary Source Microfilm, 12 Lunar Dr., Woodbridge, Conn. 06525.

Processing Information

Collection processed by staff.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Lyrel Teagarden Papers
Complete Description
Finding aid prepared by Erika Hamer and Veta Schlimgen, Manuscripts Processors
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA